Mills: Employment and Famous International Attraction
The Lords and the Mill Girls is a chapter in the Portrait of America book that details how democratic ideals do not mix well with the profit motive. One such example of this was the Lowell Mill in Massachusetts; originally it was a famous international attraction, a model of enlightened industrial management. Unfortunately, Lowell mill changed. It gradually became like the everyday grim and crowded mill town, another “squalid slum. ” Women getting the short end of the stick has been a prominent trend for ages. It is no different in the 1800s.
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Women in the 1800s did not have a large variety of fields to work in, thus many worked in mills where their wages were generally half of that of a male’s. Lowell mill was an attempt to make an industrial work place, without the exploitation. The wages for women were generally higher than others, “it was a planned community with mills five to seven stories high flanked by dormitories for the workers, not jammed together but surrounded by open space filled with trees and flower gardens set against a backdrop of the river and hills beyond. ” This was the ideal work place, even today.
Today, one hears complaints as to how terrible it was to work in their factory workplace. Having to work overtime at late notice and for workers at Ikea factories, “it’s common to find out on Friday evening that they’ll have to pull a weekend shift, with disciplinary action for those who can’t or don’t show up. ”(Los Angeles Times) Lowell turned out to be no different, it wanted to maximize its profits and so it did. Like throughout most of history, most labor unions, such as the American Federation of Labor, failed and as a result many people were fired and blacklisted.
Such labor unions protested, and as I’ve read in the young adult novel “Kira-Kira” by Cynthia Kadohata, these protests ended with every protester and anyone associated with them to be dismissed and blacklisted, a danger to those who truly needed work like the protagonist’s parents. When this happened, there were always more desperate immigrants to take the workers’ places. This happens even in today’s economy. There will always be someone who desperately needs a job even more than that worker. The idea of republican ideals within the workplace seems to be impossible attain because mankind will always be corrupted.
Throughout history people can see corruption: kings addicted to their power when they once promised their subjects peace and equal rights, corrupt politicians that favored the rich over the poor and the infamous Rod Blagojevich corruption case where he was suspected of fraud and extortion activity. The same can be said within companies as well, treating workers terribly just for a larger profit and firing them so that can’t cannot protest. By making connections to the past and to present day, one can see that the people themselves need to change for there to truly be equality within the economy and good working conditions.